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Stop stroke in its tracks!
The warning signs
Mini-stroke, major warning
The need for speed

Aspirin advisory
Aspirin advisory

The American Heart Association warns: If you think you may be suffering a stroke, do not take aspirin. Aspirin could make a hemorrhagic stroke more severe.

If you thought you were having a stroke, what would you do?

  1. Call your doctor.
  2. Call your spouse or a friend to come get you.
  3. Lie down.
  4. Call for emergency medical assistance.

The correct answer: d. You have the greatest chances of surviving stroke and suffering the least amount of disability when you get immediate medical care. That’s because doctors need to begin some treatments within three hours of the time you suffered the stroke.

The warning signs

To act promptly, you’ve got to know the following signs of stroke:

  1. sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  2. sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  3. sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  4. sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  5. sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Mini-stroke, major warning

Sometimes the symptoms may last only a few minutes. You may be experiencing a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), which produces similar symptoms. But don’t take these signs any less lightly: A mini-stroke can be a predictor of severe stroke and needs to be treated immediately.

The need for speed

Each year, about 700,000 Americans have strokes. More than 150,000 of them die. That makes stroke the third leading cause of death in the United States.

An ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when a blockage stops blood flow to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that bursts or leaks in the brain. When oxygen and nutrients can’t get through, brain cells begin dying within minutes. That’s why speedy action is needed. Doctors can treat ischemic strokes with clot-busting drugs that improve your chances of successful recovery. If you’ve suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, your doctor may choose surgery to prevent an aneurysm from bursting or bleeding again.

Anyone at any age can have a stroke, but you can fight stroke by being aware of your risk factors, which include:

  • age (75 percent of strokes occur in adults over 55)
  • gender (men’s stroke rate is higher than women’s, until their risks even out at age 75)
  • race (African-Americans face a greater risk than other ethnic groups)
  • a previous stroke or TIA
  • a family history of stroke or TIA
  • smoking
  • excess alcohol consumption
  • excess weight or obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • undesirable cholesterol levels
  • atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat)
  • lack of exercise

Being informed and prepared can make a critical difference in how you survive a stroke. It pays to educate your loved ones so they can make the right decisions, too.